Case Study: A Blast from the Past

Case Study: A Blast from the Past 1707 2560 Fadi Jawdat Al-Hindi

In 2013 a group of friends and me decided to start a not-for-profit organization by the name of Strategy & Enterprise Architecture Society (SEAS Inc.). SEAS continues to be registered in the State of North Carolina in the United States and has amassed 800+ participants by the end of 2015.

Due to numerous career moves, busy lives, and the demands of a hectic schedule, we stopped further development of SEAS.

Nonetheless, we developed and published a case study in 2013 that was very useful to business majors, executive leaders, and University professors. It is based on a fictitious company called Acme Building Materials plagued with problems.

The case study describes the organization, it’s management, issues its facing, and it’s P&L at a moment in time and challenges the reader to find a solution. We also provided an answer key in the published case study.

For nostalgia purposes, I am attaching the case study here as some of our readers might find some useful nuggets of information and we encourage anyone in an educational or mentor capacity to use this case study to help facilitate understanding.

Happy reading!

Batten Down the Hatches and Innovate

Batten Down the Hatches and Innovate 1920 1280 Digit AI

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition came to a sudden end just two months after it began. The ship was icebound and what followed was a harrowing tale of survival and human ingenuity.

For many businesses, 2020 started the same way with the perfect conditions to reach great new heights. There were no headwinds in sight. The coast was clear as far as the eyes could see. In our wildest imaginations, no one would have predicted such a scenario happening, and even less so the best environment to try new things and make ambitious and grandiose plans.

“We knew it would be the hardest thing we had ever undertaken, for the Antarctic winter had set in, and we were about to cross one of the worst seas in the world.”

Frank Worsley, Captain of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition

Innovators understand that changing market dynamics, customer needs and technological transformation requires them to not only improve and extend their lead in what shapes the essence of their business today, but also to journey into the unknown, imagine different possible futures and discover a different world by seeing around the corners and looking for what lies ahead.

This is exactly how Ernest Shackleton and the crew felt when they set sail for their great new adventure aboard “The Endurance”. The plan was to set a new record by crossing over 1800 miles in Antarctica. That ambition was cut short, but the shipmates’ story remains a great example of survival against all the odds.

“Amid these profound and overwhelming forces, we are the absolute embodiment of helpless futility.”

Frank Hurley, Photographer of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition

Tough times and suddenly changing circumstances are great moments that can highlight major strengths or expose significant weaknesses in organizational systems and processes. The actions and reactions to manage through the crisis also make for interesting case stories for future business leaders. Surviving and thriving in the most challenging times is what makes for memorable sailor stories that Ernest Shackleton and his shipmates recounted on how they were able to plot their escape. Innovators can learn a lot from the discipline and organization practiced by those who regularly face treacherous waters and live to tell about it. Here are some ‘sailor realities’ that can help describe how an organization needs to think about its efforts to innovate in stable and turbulent times:

Ship-shape and Bristol fashion

Being in first-class order is a way of life for sailors maintaining their ship and equipment in good working condition. Setting out for the next adventure without making sure they can operate at their best is just not an option with the unknown risks that await them at sea. Yet, many organizations don’t have a system that acts as their engine for change when it comes to innovation. As important as financial systems are to companies, they should apply the same thinking for innovation systems — developing and operationalizing creative ideas in a single system of record. It’s those concrete and valued ideas that come to life that keep a company shipshape and ready to weather the storm.

Batten down the hatches

As bad weather sets in, waves pick up, and a disturbance appears in the distance; the sailor prepares for the trouble that lies ahead. For innovators, this is simply the impending function of how businesses sustain themselves as the world inevitably changes around them. Having a clear process and structure to account for innovation allows for a clear view of the innovation pipeline and portfolio. Staying customer-obsessed and looking for a range of innovations based on customer insights means you can always stay several steps ahead of the competition.

Dead in the water

The ship will stand still and dead in the water when there is no wind to propel its sails. In the Age of Innovation, even the most exceptional innovators can move quickly from first to last. Winners can find themselves disrupted if they don’t have a second act. “What’s next?” thinking is not just a mantra — it’s also a business imperative that helps you to use the positive momentum of one successful solution to identify the following one.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

Sailors sometimes have to make tough choices and face dilemmas at sea. The alternatives may come down to choosing between the bad, the ugly, or the unknown. As danger lurks, making tough decisions is part and parcel of successful businesses. Many organizations struggle to understand if they are making the right choices in their innovation investments. The ability to compare different alternatives by factoring in the proper business criteria and involving subject matter experts is hard work. Winning teams leverage the right platforms that help facilitate such evaluations and decision making.

Cut and run

Some situations demand quick actions that require you to cut the rope and leave your anchor behind. Agile thinking means you know how to plan out a meaningful experiment. It also means you know most bets are unlikely to pay off. The higher the reward the more attempts may be required to find the right answer. Cutting down to scope the challenges you need to solve and determine if your work is helping you head in the right direction is where the magic of agile experimentation comes in. Keep learning from each attempt, keep moving forward when it makes sense, and keep turning back and trying others paths when needed while avoiding going down the same rabbit hole.

At a loose end

“Tying up loose ends” is critical before you set sail and to make sure you are shipshape. In innovation, you need to make sure you have the right business model to build your plan around. A Business Model Canvas is a great practice to build into your innovation process to ensure you factor in all key considerations that communicate your value proposition. Work collaboratively to challenge each area so you can end up with a well-thought-out business proposition that fully supports your concept’s development.

Knowing the ropes

Good sailors know every square inch of their ship — by remembering where everything is and understand how everything works, including all environmental factors. Likewise, innovations that find real success in the marketplace have been fully vetted with a clear understanding and plan of what changes and support are required to scale and commercialize them successfully.

Whistle for the wind

Sailor superstition hopes to summon the wind by merely whistling to create a positive movement when the ship is dead in the water. Creating positive change and results takes a lot more than just fables and fairy tales. Instead, the innovator’s whistle leans on artificial intelligence to sift through a myriad of data sources and mountains of information. These factors help identify those valuable clues that can serve as a source of inspiration and help develop hunches that lead to potentially uncovering meaningful breakthrough opportunities the organization should focus on.

“After long months of ceaseless anxiety and strain, after times when hope beat high and times when the outlook was black indeed, we have been compelled to abandon the ship, which is crushed beyond all hope of ever being righted.”

Ernest Shackleton, Leader of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition

From 1914 to 1916, the crew members of Endurance were able to strategically hunker down, transform their ship into a winter habitat, and use everything at their disposal until they were able to envisage their escape eventually. Two years later, everyone returned home safely by using lifeboats and survived the ordeal.

This pandemic may very well last just as long before it is all said and done. It is also an amazing time, and more important than ever, to think about embracing change. Innovators are continually setting out for their big adventure. They are fully aware that the innovation journey to the most rewarding ideas is never an easy one, and that it takes great care and attention to achieve their objectives. Good things come to those who play the long game and choose the right actions to stay ahead.

Source: 1914-1916 The Endurance

About the Author:
Ludwig Melik, CEO of Planbox

As a visionary thought leader and passionate technology advocate, Ludwig has the opportunity to work with some of the most innovative companies in the world every day. Sharing enterprise innovation success stories, design thinking methodologies and agile work processes are some of his ardent talking points. With 20+ years of experience in the project portfolio management and innovation management market, Ludwig looks to help organizations positively transform their work culture to create sustainable growth and ongoing success by galvanizing employee engagement and by igniting creative ideation. Connect with Ludwig on LinkedIn.

For tips and advice on insuring effective innovation management in your organization, check out what Planbox has to offer.

Contact us for a free first consultation at

Disruptive Innovation: 5 Signs a Company Is Poised to Pivot

Disruptive Innovation: 5 Signs a Company Is Poised to Pivot 1920 1280 Digit AI

This article originally appeared on ValueWalk.

The Covid-19 pandemic and its unprecedented economic fallout are testing how successfully many companies can react to changing market conditions. As the business models of entire industries are upended, the ability to innovate rapidly and smartly is not just a competitive advantage, it could be what decides which companies thrive and which will falter in the post-Covid economy.

But determining a company’s innovative potential is not always easy. Here are five signs that a company is poised to pivot.

It Backs Potentially Game-Changing Ideas

Disruptive companies build products and business models that are not just new, but the first of its kind. Many startups fit this category, but having an initial spark does not ensure the innovation fire will keep burning. To continue to grow, a company must commit to innovation over the long term—even if it means disrupting itself. Netflix pivoting to streaming as its DVD rental business tanked is a classic example, as is Apple’s bold decision to discontinue making most iPods and focus on iPhones, remaking the music industry along the way.

It Creates Space for Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation does not just happen, employees need time and space to focus on ideas and prototypes that can extend the business’ market value. Many companies, such as Lululemon and CVS, have built dedicated “innovation labs.” These are often deliberately sited away from the corporate head offices and in creative locations, such as near a university or startup hub, where employees can be exposed to new ideas and collaborate with people outside the business. These specialized labs work: in three years, Target’s product design lab has developed six in-house brands worth $1 billion each.

It Has a Robust Innovation Management Process

Innovation begins with a culture open to ideas and iterating, but it needs structure to ensure great ideas are pursued and funded. Organizations that connect with a diverse stakeholder ecosystem are much more likely to excel at innovation, so structures need to be in place that encourage, collect, and evaluate ideas from employees across the company, as well as from vendors, customers and partners. These may include insight programs that bring in ideas from vendors, customer intelligence platforms or employees tasked with overseeing and managing an innovation strategy.

It Invests in the Future

Innovation does not happen overnight or without financial commitment. R&D funding is not a true proxy for innovation, but how much a company invests in it and how successful its pipeline has been can be telling. Amazon, for instance, spends more than $20 billion a year on R&D. Corporate venture capital is another area to watch. There are more than 1,500 corporate venture funds, which companies use to scout for new technologies and seed ideas in startups. These funds are essentially peering into the future to determine which new technologies represent opportunities and threats to the parent company. During the 2008-2009 downturn, many corporates reduced their venture investments, so those that stay the course this time are signaling a strong commitment to continuous innovation.

It Balances Risk and Reward

The truth is that disruption requires risk-taking, and failure is a necessary part of the innovation process. The key is for companies to find the right balance between risk and reward. Many startups adopt a strategy of “failing fast” in order to experiment rapidly, learn from mistakes and progress towards breakthrough innovations. That approach has traditionally been harder for established companies. However, in the post-pandemic economy, disruption will be the new normal for the foreseeable future. That changes the risk-reward calculus. Indeed, in such uncertainty, choosing not to be bold and innovate could be the biggest risk of all.

About the Author:
Ludwig Melik, CEO of Planbox

As a visionary thought leader and passionate technology advocate, Ludwig has the opportunity to work with some of the most innovative companies in the world every day. Sharing enterprise innovation success stories, design thinking methodologies and agile work processes are some of his ardent talking points. With 20+ years of experience in the project portfolio management and innovation management market, Ludwig looks to help organizations positively transform their work culture to create sustainable growth and ongoing success by galvanizing employee engagement and by igniting creative ideation. Connect with Ludwig on LinkedIn.

For tips and advice on insuring effective innovation management in your organisation, check out what Planbox has to offer.

Contact us for a free first consultation at

How to Overcome Barriers to Effective Innovation

How to Overcome Barriers to Effective Innovation 1707 2560 Digit AI

This is an article written and published by our innovation partner Planbox.

Understanding how important innovation is for the success of your business yet still not being able to achieve effective innovation company-wide is very frustrating.

Building a profitable and sustainable innovation strategy is a step in the right direction, but even a solid strategy can fail if there are internal issues that need to be addressed.

Gartner’s 2019 Technology Innovation Strategy Survey uncovered the top five barriers to innovation: employees focused on immediate goals, employees resistant to change, compliance restrictions, executive resistance, and lack of funding.

These hurdles are the most likely to hinder a company from achieving its desired innovation goals. However, every organization can work to eliminate these obstacles. Here are tips on how to overcome barriers to effective innovation.

Prepare and Encourage Employees

Employees cannot be prepared for the future of work if they do not know what to expect. This creates hesitation and the wrong focus as workers attempt to adapt to change while also getting their regular tasks done efficiently. Traditions are powerful motivators to keep the status quo, and past results can lead to closed minds when it comes to new innovation initiatives. Open communication and proper education are essential for overcoming these issues that can lead to unengaged employees. Otherwise, your own staff can be one of the toughest barriers to effective innovation.

Prepare employees by educating them about future trends, training them in key skill areas, and providing helpful resources like open innovation software to make workplace collaboration easier. Encourage employees by helping them present their ideas in a way that others understand and by reinforcing a safe environment for ideas to freely flow. Communicating company goals and strategy to employees is critical, but it is just as important to make sure they are able to voice opinions, concerns, and ideas just as effectively.

Get Leadership on Board

Executives can be even more close-minded to new practices than employees because of the perceived time, money, and risk associated with a transformation. It is true; the ROI of innovation is very difficult to calculate. If a business requires proof of the financial benefit for an initiative, it is likely that innovation will never happen.

Risk should be evaluated, but it should not make you resistant to ideas and initiatives with great reward. If employees feel like their leadership will not take their ideas seriously, then executive resistance will create greater employee hesitation. Company leadership is responsible for creating a culture of innovation that encourages ideation.

Getting leadership on board with innovation initiatives helps reassure that there will be a firm commitment to these efforts. Other barriers to innovation include a lack of follow-through and a low adoption rate that result in wasted resources. To prove the value of innovation and gain executive support, there needs to be a strategy.

Prepare this strategy by defining innovative success, setting achievable goals and targets, working within constraints while also eliminating constraints, and focusing on activities with the biggest value for success.

Work around Your Resources

Just because everyone in your organization is excited for innovation does not mean the ideal resources are available to make it happen. Some innovation is better than none at all, and getting the process started can make expanding efforts later on easier.

It is important to work within your constraints while also making an effort to eliminate those constraints. Employee’s time should be taken into consideration because overwhelming them will lead back to hesitation and resistance. Not taking inventory of your current resources and those required by your strategy could mean abandoning innovation later on.

Long-term goals are important for driving innovation, so do not lose sight of what you want out of innovation even if it is not possible right now. Set short term goals that can be achieved with the current resources. Focus on activities that are low-cost, low-risk, and have measurable value. If an activity is not directly helping you achieve your current goal, then it is probably not worth the current resources. Slowly reshape the company culture into an open, supportive, and innovative environment.

With the right tools and solutions, any barrier to innovation can be conquered. If you are not sure where your innovation problem lies, or if there is a problem at all, then an Innovation Health Checkup might be helpful. It will identify which core areas need development for building effective innovation within your organization. For sustainable innovation practices, learn more about Continuous Improvement Software.

For tips and advice on insuring effective innovation management in your organization, check out what Planbox has to offer.

Contact us for a free first consultation at

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